The first phone developed by Motorola after its acquisition by Google, the Moto X is like a breath of fresh air among the usual droids. This Techspirited article takes an in-depth look at the many features of this phone that sets it apart from the competition.
Did You Know?
In spite of sporting some amazing features, the Moto X has sold about 500,000 pieces only, till the end of November 2013.
For the most part of 2013, tales of a mysterious device with supernatural capabilities were common talk amongst tech lovers around the world. The device was simply called X, and was believed to be the brainchild of Google’s mobile OEM, Motorola. The world waited with bated breath as details along with some seemingly implausible specs in the mix did the rounds. Expectations were sky-high as Google finally announced the Moto X to the world on 23rd August 2013. The phone certainly did not disappoint.
The device is not exactly a complete powerhouse, but still brings in some unique (and might I add, extremely useful) features, unlike the other not-so-smart features found on devices across other ‘galaxies’. The company markets the Moto X as the first all-American phone, although the phone, in most part, is put together using parts shipped in from Asia and Europe. Irrespective of its origin, though, this is one impressive device. If this phone catches your fancy, then dive right in as we take a closer look at one of the most popular phones of the year, which unfortunately, hasn’t translated into great sales.
Image Source: motorola-blog.blogspot.com
|129.3 x 65.3 x 10.4 mm
|Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 Pro
|Dual-core 1.7 GHz Krait 300
|16/32 GB internal storage
(~312 ppi pixel density)
|10 MP/2 MP
|Android v4.2.2 Jelly Bean
|2,200 mAh Li-ion
Design and Construction
The Moto X is one good looker, with just the perfect size and curves. Google’s influence is clearly visible right from the first time you look at the phone. In line with the design language of the Mount View-based company, the device has a very minimalistic design, yet seems to be oozing with class. The X is a perfect marriage of glossy plastic and elegant soft-touch polycarbonate at the back. With dimensions 129.3 x 65.3 x 10.4 mm the device hits the sweet spot by being just about the perfect size to fit into the palm of most users. The curved back, along with the use of soft plastic gives the phone a great grip in the hand, and is conducive for one-handed operations. Motorola has managed to keep the bezel around the 4.7-inch screen to a bare minimum, giving you the feeling of holding just the screen in your hand. The only other physical elements at the front are the earpiece grille sitting at the center just above the screen, flanked by the secondary camera to the right and the ambient light and proximity sensors to the left. Just below the screen is a tiny inlet for one of the three dedicated mics employed for noise cancellation. The three ambient noise-cancellation mics along with Motorola’s CrystalTalk technology lends unmatched call clarity to the phone. These mics also help in the ASR (Automatic Speech Recognition) technology used in the phone. Needless to say, being a Google device, the phone uses on-screen Android keys for navigation.
Around the sides is where you see the glossy plastic meeting the rubbery plastic in perfect harmony. The left side houses the nano-SIM card slot, while to the right are the power button and volume rocker. These buttons are easy to reach with one hand, and have a nice tactile feedback. The top houses the 3.5 mm headphone jack at the center and the secondary noise-cancellation mic. At the bottom, right at the center, is the microUSB port for charging and data transfer.
The back of the phone is where you find the camera surrounded by a metal accent toward the center-top with the speaker to the right. Just below the camera is a single LED flash. The Motorola logo sits in a dimple just below where your index finger usually rests while holding the phone. Towards the bottom you find the third mic for noise cancellation. The phone does not have the slimmest of waistlines, which actually provides a better grip. At just 130 g, the phone is a pleasure to use and is very pocketable. The internals of the phone have a special water-repellent coating which protects the phone from basic accidental water spillage. This, however, does not compare to the IP58 certified Sony Xperia Z1, and will not be able to resist more than just a quick dunk in the water. The plastics used on the device are real high quality and make it feel very sturdy. The phone is a perfect balance of luxury and ergonomics.
The Moto X is one of the most customizable phones out there. Motorola takes an extremely innovative approach to personalizing the mobile phone experience. Users can use the handy Moto Maker app online to custom build their Moto X. You can mix and match between 2 front panel, 18 back and 7 accent colors. You can even choose to have a short message or signature inscribed on the back of the device. The customization does not stop at that, as users can further choose the storage capacity, wallpaper, and personalized start-up greeting on switching on the device. You can even have your Google Account pre-synced on your device when you receive it. All you need to do is enter your password, and you’re good to go! Moto Maker also lets you choose your accessories and gives you a range of options for clear cases for the device. This high level of personalization is something that has never been offered by any other manufacturer, and is a fantastic initiative by the company.
Hardware and Storage
At first glance, the spec sheet of the Moto X may look unimpressive and even sub par. The phone is powered by a Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 MSM8960Pro SoC with a dual-core Krait 300 CPU. This may make it seem like a rather lackluster performer, but a closer look reveals the true beauty of the device. The S4 chipset only makes a part of the processing power of the phone, and handles all the Android functions. The other half of Motorola’s computing architecture, called the X8 Mobile Computing System, consists a contextual awareness core and a natural language core. These help power the two special features of the phone―Active Display and Touchless Control. We will talk about these features in the software and features segment of the review. The phone handles all tasks with relative ease and even multifunction is a breeze, thanks to the 2 GB of RAM on it. The phone delivers a great user-experience and all the functions work smoothly.
The phone comes with 16 or 32 GB of internal storage. Unfortunately, though, there is no microSD card slot on board. In practical use, though, users still get ample storage space (up to 12 GB and 24 GB respectively, on the two variants). Cloud storage too, should come in handy to store your data files, with Google offering Moto X owners 50 GB of storage on Google Drive for 2 years. MicroSD card slots seem to have lost favor with manufacturers, with most choosing to leave them out of their high-end phones. We consider it to be a real small trade compared to the other amazing features this phone has to offer. Great hardware put to equally great practical use.
Graphics and Display
Motorola has done a fantastic job of squeezing in a 4.7-inch 720p display in such a small body, and the phone is second only to the LG G2 in this regard. The display uses a full RGB matrix and has a pixel density of 312 ppi. The AMOLED screen is drop-dead gorgeous with deep blacks and superb contrasts. The display also plays a major part in facilitating the Active Display technology on the phone. The dedicated core for this technology works in a low-power state and displays the time and other notifications at regular intervals even when the phone is on standby mode. AMOLED technology ensures that this doesn’t take a toll on battery life, as only the pixels needs for the notification are powered on. You can simply glance at the phone to know about any notifications or even just to know the time. This is an extremely handy feature, which further adds to the incredible hands-free experience of the phone.
Adreno 320 is a wonderful performer and makes short work of rendering even the most demanding of video and image files. Game playing is loads of fun on the large screen, and even HD titles play smoothly without any noticeable lag. Images and videos look great on the device, but are often oversaturated, as is the case in most AMOLED devices. The screen has wide viewing angles and the sunlight legibility too, is good. The screen is protected by a layer of Corning Gorilla Glass, and should offer some protection from scratches and accidental drops. All in all, the multimedia experience is rather satisfying and is further complemented by a great speaker. Great multimedia viewing experience.
Camera and Optics
The Moto X ships with a rather capable camera on board. The 10 MP snapper is easily one of the finest cameras on a smartphone today. The camera senor uses a large 1.4 µm pixel size, and claims to capture up to 75% more detail in every shot. The phone does a great job of taking photographs in good lighting conditions, and satisfactorily handles capturing images in low light. Images are captured at a maximum resolution of 4320 x 2432. The camera interface is very intuitive and offers quick access to its various functions. By default, just tapping on the screen takes a photograph, as opposed to tapping on the shutter icon in most smartphone cameras. We found this to be a really nice touch, and it would suit most phone users who simply want to point and click. You can change or disable this feature from the settings menu. The camera offers a rich set of features and are real easy to use. You can toggle between the still and video camera by tapping on the camera icon at the bottom-right corner in the camera UI. The phone records videos at 1080p@30fps with the option to shoot slow-motion videos at 720p@15fps. The video camera makes good use of the many microphones on the phone and records audio in high quality stereo.
The secondary 2 MP camera for video calling also records videos at 1080p@30fps. It also makes for a handy camera to take self-portraits. Overall, the camera is fast and responsive. We rather like the unique flick to activate camera function on the phone, where you simple need to turn the phone to landscape mode and flick it to activate the camera. Although you might at times need to flick it more than once, the feature works well. A very capable camera with a great UI.
Software and Customizations
Motorola is now owned by Google, and this truly shows in the Android experience on the Moto X. The phone runs on Android v4.2.2 Jelly Bean out of the box, a KitKat (v4.4) treat right around the corner. The phone has whatever little there is left of the MOTOBLUR UI on top of Android. Though most of the device is largely a stock Android experience. Screen transitions are fluid, as you would expect of a device with such hardware under the hood.
Apart from Active Display, which we spoke about earlier, the Moto X has another trump card―Touchless Control. With the use of its dedicated natural language core and Google Now, the phone is just a call away from you! The three mics on the device are always ‘listening’ to you, and you no longer need to tap on the device or even be close to it to launch Google Now. The phone learns to recognize your voice and does not activate any of the functions if it detects some other voice. The low-power core ensures minimal battery consumption, even as the contextual awareness feature runs as the phone is on standby.
Google’s personal assistant shines in all its glory on the Moto X and can make phone calls, search the Internet, and even set reminders for you. Now, if only it were to learn to cook (although it can look up the Internet for recipes), you would never need to ‘siriously’ consider anyone else!
This is, by far, one of the biggest USPs of the phone and helps highlight the capabilities of Google Now. This feature is very useful and almost completely does away with the need to physically access the phone to retrieve basic information. We can see some great real-life implementations of this feature, especially when you are occupied doing something and quickly want some information from your phone, the route to a place while you’re driving, for instance. Apart from this, the phone also packs all the standard connectivity features like A-GPS with GLONASS, NFC, micro USB (MHL), Bluetooth 4.0 LE, etc. Active Display and Touchless Control steal the show.
The Moto X packs a Li-ion 2,200 mAh battery. While this might seem to be rather small as compared to the battery on most of the competition, the X8 system does a fine job of managing the power consumption of the phone. Motorola’s choice to go in with a 720p display also helps reduce the strain on the non user-accessible battery. The company claims a battery life of up to 24 hours on mixed usage, which is not far from the truth. Efficient power consumption.
The good about Motorola Moto X
- Great ergonomic design
- Bright and vibrant display
- A wide variety of phone customizations
- Unique contextual awareness features
- Good camera
The Not-so-good about Motorola Moto X
- Not widely available
- No microSD card slot
- Non-removable battery
Value for Money
3.5 / 5
Most of the features found on the Moto X are fairly unique, at least for the moment, as they are hardware related. Google surely seems to have worked their magic with Motorola, and have come up with a truly incredible device. Motorola claims to have conducted various surveys while designing every aspect of the phone, and the result is for all to see. To sum it up, we would say that Motorola have managed to produce a gem of a phone which, in the true spirit of America, is made by the people for the people. Cheers.
Disclaimer: Prices mentioned are applicable on a 2-year contract and are subject to change according to offers and location.